It's been a very rough summer for Illinois athletics as we detailed in the countdown several times already, including yesterday. With an abundance of injuries, personnel issues and the athletic department being overran with controversy, John Groce is seeing an increase in pressure to win now. With that being said, he could really use freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands this season, especially as the team needs to replace offensive leader Rayvone Rice. And naturally, the Illini saw their prized recruit suffer a stress fracture in his leg this summer that sidelined the guard indefinitely.
We mentioned yesterday that Coleman-Lands was having his fracture re-evaluated in hopes of returning to the court in the near future, but now rumors are swirling around that things might not be going smoothly in that department:
Rumors haven't been good on this. Would be another rough blow to lose JCL for a chunk of this year or more. https://t.co/1EErbGYM3b— Derek Piper (@DPiperScout) September 2, 2015
I asked Groce about Coleman-Lands' X-Ray. He says they got it back, but isn't ready to comment yet b/c he still needs to talk to his family.— Matt Wettersten (@WCIA3Matt) September 2, 2015
While the hope was that the freshman would be ready to go in the near or immediate future, the speculation is that his injury could potentially spill over into the season. That of course would be a huge problem for an Illini offense that was 10th in the Big Ten in scoring, 13th in field goal percentage, 14th in two point percentage and 9th in three point shooting. That of course doesn't even take into consideration the fact that the team will lose four of their top scorers in Rayvonte Rice, Aaron Cosby, Ahmad Starks and Nnanna Egwu. Of course you also have to mix in the loss of point guard Tracy Abrams once again, the offensively limited set of point guards currently on the roster and a thin frontcourt after the dismissal of Darius Paul. When everything is considered, Illinois needs a spark on offense and Coleman-Lands was the guy likely to help fill that void.
So if he ends up missing part of the season, it could make scoring a bit tricky for the Illini. They will still have guys like Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn, but the talent takes a considerable drop after that and the team's depth has quickly evaporated after all of the personnel issues. Coleman-Lands, a four star recruit out of Indiana, has the skill set to play both guard positions and was considered by some to be one of better, if not one of the best, shooters in his recruiting class. His ability to shoot from all over was a key asset that Illinois desperately needs and without it the team will be forced to turn to several options that have yet to deliver while in Champaign. Even more problematic is his health issues, considering if they carry over into the fall/winter, mean that he'll be missing valuable time for practice and getting accustomed to the team and college level basketball. The end result is it'll make his return when healthy even more difficult as he starts from a considerable hole after sitting the last several months out.
Illinois finished last year going 2-6 over the last eight games, losing every outing when they were held to 60 points or less (49, 53, 60, 58, 55, 58). The team's inability to maintain a consistent offense became detrimental down the stretch in conference play and was the reason why Groce saw his team fall off the NCAA bubble and land back into the NIT, which is starting to look like a more likely landing spot for the Illini once again in 2015-16. With a roster that is losing numerous top scorers, dealing with a decent amount of injuries and seeing all of it's accumulated depth go to the wayside, it's not even November and the Illini roster is starting to look like a potential trainwreck. Injury issues like this means there's going to be decisively more pressure on guys like Leron Black and Jaylon Tate to step up, while Malcolm Hill and Kendruck Nunn will have to make the next jump in order to replace Rice.
With a fan base hoping for improvement, Groce is going to have a difficult task this upcoming season. If he can patch this team together and get them to the NCAA Tournament that alone would warrant a cozy extension next spring.
Recent Citations Take Another Turn for the Hoosiers
As you're aware of by now, Indiana basketball recently had to deal with two citations involving Emmitt Holt and Thomas Bryant recently, with head coach Tom Crean dismissing Holt and internally disciplining Bryant. Things got a bit more interesting, though, as more details about the incident were released yesterday. It turns out that former Hoosier Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who had plenty of off the court problems before being dismissed from the team, was also in the car with Holt and Bryant. Also in the vehicle was fellow freshmen Juwan Morgan, a three-star power forward that is part of the 2015 recruiting class for Indiana. Neither player was cited in the incident, so Morgan should be fine, but it is a bit problematic that players on the team are still hanging around former players that were dismissed after multiple transgressions away from the court.
Tom Izzo Makes Everything Better
Because how can you not love this?
Tom Izzo takes a turn on the accordion at MSU's farewell dinner in Venice. pic.twitter.com/yft5m7AjiW— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) August 31, 2015